The Rock-Hewn Churches Of Tigray – Ethiopia

ETHIOPIA – ROCK CHURCHES OF TIGRAY

The Rock-Hewn Churches Of Tigray are less known than the ones in Lalibella. But for me much more interesting. Most of the 120 churches in the area is on road less travelled. You need a guide and a 4 wheel drive to see some of them. And please have decent hiking boots and not sandals like I did…Most of these Churches are hidden  away on mountaintops or difficult to get places, to be safe from robbers and invaders. Most of them are Semi-Monolithic (only partly separated from the host rock) or even built into pre-existing caves, and hence at first sight less “impressive” Please be patient. It can take a while before somebody finds the priest with the key.  And be ready to do some legwork. It will be rewarding…

On route there was a procession. I think maybe someone from the nearest village died.

One other positive thing is that going to the churches, you will pass trough some amazing countryside where life is going on like forever.

ROAD TO HELL – DANAKIL DEPRESSION

DANAKIL DEPRESSION – Afar region of Ethiopia

SALT PRODUCTION in the Danakil

The Danakil experience is not to be missed. Been fascinated since I saw an article in National geographic long long time ago. This is for me the one reason to go to Ethiopia. We were (Uncle P and I) very worried no to be able to make this trip. We had some info trough the grapevine about a poor bastard being shot dead climbing a volcano. This area is heavy disputed and there is always a chance that they will close it down for further visits from tourist. But to our luck, they just send in more soldiers and it was possible. And just to make one thing clear, you are not going to be roaming free.  Armed Escort is the name of the game.. You are a valuable asset and keeping you alive and kicking is feeding the ever starving tourist Industry.

The people of the desert is as tough as their environment. They move house in the hot period  living in these makeshift huts 10 month of the year.

The area is absolutely fascinating. Located in the north of the Afar Triangle, a geological depression formed by tectonic plates that are slowly ripping the earth apart, the Danakil Depression is very low in altitude (about 100 meters below sea level), dry (rain is extremely rare) and hot – so hot that it’s famous for being the hottest place on earth in terms of year round average temperatures. it’s also one of the most geologically active: the depression is essentially a molten, acidic, and bubbling expanse of land unlike anything else you’ve ever going to see.

But for me, the fascination lays in the salt mines of Dallol. The land was once a part of the red sea. And now there is only big deposits of salt left. The locals are mining this salt in unbearable heat under inhuman conditions.

Transporting the salt on camels and donkeys to the nearest city to sell it for very little profit. Not a profession for the weak hearted.

The salt production of Danakil is the most interesting I seen for ages. It is incredible it is still existing. One would think that with modern technology, the old way would disappear fast like everywhere else in the world. But till now, the Afar people is cutting their livelihood out of the salt brick by brick. A top of the line production facility only worked for 5 years. Beaten by the relentless heat and dust.  Been a great privilege to see this.

The white waves of Axum

Axum – Northern Ethiopia

For most people Axum is the base of exploring the kingdom of Axum (100 AD-940 AD) archaeological site. I made some not so wonderful videos with my phone. 

Normally I am not to keen on archaeological sites, and this is not exceptionel. But as always it is nice to see but nothing special. I was wondering why some of the Obelisks had a door.

Cathedral of Maryam of Tsion is much more interesting. It is opposite the Stelae Park. Like the atmosphere of the place. It is nearly like touching religion.

The big thing is in an outbuilding on the church site. They claim that in this building there is one of the world most renown artifacts. The Tabot or the Ark of Covenant. Obvious this is a truth that is widely disputed. There is no way they will allow anybody to examine the Artifact. So it is a little argument against argument. My position is, that if this make them happy it doesn’t hurt anybody. And remember, that in the old times, every church needed something to make them special. Like a splinter from the Cross or a strand of hair from  Jesus. It made religious arguments have more punch, sanction by God himself. So the validity of the ark argument is not important. Religion is about believing in something bigger and not looking for logical truth.

The place for the Tabot is heavenly guarded. The guard of the Covenant is appointed for life. Interesting is, that the Tabot suppose to have been in the second temple in Jerusalem.  How the Covenant is to be in Axum today  is a story I would love to hear.

Sometimes when you travel you are going to experience something unexpected exceptional. And this happened in Axum early morning Sunday. I call it the white waves of Axum. It is an amazing spectacle, where everybody is out for the service.

There is a segregation going on between the woman and men. It is an amazing spectacle. There is singing game where there is a lot of singing and dancing. I didn’t avoid the watchful eye of a guy who  didn’t want me talking a video. But the amosfare this morning was second to none. Seems to me that everybody was there.  Everybody dressed in white and in constant move. Just like a big white sea. Happy I bought sunglasses to prevent me from becoming snow blind ,o). On the religious side priest was doing outdoor service which is obvious, as there is no way these crowds of people will fit indoors.

Religion run deep in the souls of Ethiopians.

There is a thing about religion. Marx called religion opium of the people. And there is a correlation between the rich countries and their populations lack of believing. On the other hand, the poorest countries are also the most believing. If it is impossible to change the now, people tend to focus on the spiritual and the next life to make the now bearable. Just like in the rich countries before.

Interesting video. And not the whole truth….

Happiness is not something readymade. It comes from your own actions.  – Dalai Lama.

Ethiopia – Bahar Dar – Lake Tana

Lake Tana is a big body of water. It is the largest lake in Ethiopia and the source of the Blue Nile. It is nearly impossible not to charter a boat in Bahar Dar to see the lake. The touts will not let you.

It is a beautiful lake. and a must see. The really interesting thing for most people about the lake is the monasteries. They are scattered on the little islands. And here a boat hire is essential. There are also  hippos,  weaverbirds and pelicans. And some say the odd crocodile. I do not find the monasteries very interesting, but if you are there it is something to do. After two or tree it get a little repetitious. Boat arrives. Tourist gets out. Going on the little path to the monasteries the villages are trying hard to push their products. After a while this gets a little deja-vu. Same thing over and over. You get to the monetary often on the top of the island. Here you pay entrance fee. Some guy tells about the paintings. The claim some of the drawings are more than 1000 years old. Maybe so, but they have been updated a lot. And really – Who cares. All taking in to consideration it is nice on the lake, and definitely a must see.

 

 

 

Inside the monasteries there are often painting and  drums for prying. And sometime you can be lucky to see a priest. I think these guys give a strong impression. Total devotion to God. It is kind of hard to find this in a modern society.  This quiet iterative life have been going on for thousand of years.

The paintings inside is often quite gruesome.  Purgatory seems like the common theme.  I guess this was necessary to keep the sheep in the flock.

There is a lot of  traffic on the lake. And it is very beautiful. People are using boats to connect with each other and the mainland.

All in all the beautiful lake Tana is a very nice break from Bahar Dar and definitely worth seeing. The monisternes are interesting qua their location, but the buildings and interiør are found better.

Ethiopia – Addis Ababa

Addis Ababa is the capital of Ethiopia. It is the 4th highest capital city in the world.  2400 m  above sea level. Bogotá, Colombia (2600 m); Quito, Ecuador(2850m) and La Paz, Bolivia (3650 m) are higher still. It is a bustling city with more than 3 million  inhabitants.  The air is thin and you need to be careful to use sun protection, as you don’t feel burned before it is too late. It seemed to me that the air pollution is pretty bad in Addis. This combined with the high altitude make wandering around in the city harder than normal.

I don’t think that Addis is going to win an award for the most beautiful city any time. It is dirty and polluted. Garbage anywhere. People anywhere. But it has pockets of interest. I like the  Piazza area a lot. Ethiopia was never colonized but Italia occupied the country in 1939. And the Piazza still have some old world appeal. I prefer this any day compared with fast drying concrete. Italians left some beautiful buildings. Of couse by now it is run down and ill maintained but still there is a lot of charm.

I will ask anybody going there to very careful with your valuables. Not that Ethiopia is an unsafe place, but poverty can drive some to extremes.

The Tiglachin monument  (English: Our Struggle) is a memorial to Ethiopian and Cuban soldiers involved in the Ogaden War. It was built under Mengistu Haile Mariam on Churchill Avenue in Addis Ababa. (It is sometimes erroneously called the “Derg Monument”, but the monument does not honor the Derg regime.) The monument is composed of various elements: a central statue, a 50 m tall pillar, two wall reliefs on the sides and two squares where the portraits of Cuban soldiers are visible. (WIKI)

I like the fact that this was a gift from North Korea. Obvious the ties with NK is not existing no more with the exit of the DENG. But I think it is a beautiful monument and happy it exist still. Big red star on the top. What not to like?

The Addis Train station is interesting. Even though it seems there hasn’t been  a train for ages (2002) , there is a guy protecting the building against prying eye of the tourists. He has enclosed a big area in front of the building and sitting in the middle on a chair with a stick. Not to be messed with.  Even though it cannot be considered a military secret anymore, why give up your steady job?

There is a cafe on the premises. Everything is very civilized like 100 year ago. The lack of train passengers is outweigh by the passenger from the nearby Busstation.

During my stay in Ethiopia I found myself very fond of mixed Juices. It is a life saver. .

Addis is hard to like. It has some redeeming qualities. It is very in your face experience like you can find in the big cities in India but it is definitely interesting in its own right.

 

Ethiopia Addis Ababa Taxi.

They have some old bangers roaming around in Addis. Some would think that they should be dead, but the force is still strong with them.

The owners/users make them work with whatever means possible. Often they are so beaten up that most of the interior is missing. And only the most essential is working.

I had an experience going to Addis Airport. I thought I had a deal with a taxi driver going to the airport at 3 o¨clock in the morning. But probably due to the Ethiopia/international time confusion he didn’t show. Found a taxi with a driver sleeping in the backseat. Knocked on the window, and he was fine taking me to the airport. There were no door cards and hardly any upholstery.  It took forever to wake the old dinosaur in a cloud of black smoke.  I think it must take special skilled driver to manage one of these old taxis. Most of the gears didn’t work and the engine misfired on at least 2 cylinders. The noise was incredible. No electricity was working so no lights. Thank god there are streetlights most of the way to the airport. The driver did one thing I liked. He locked all the doors. Maybe he had some bad experience driving in the dark, or maybe he was concerned about my security. Don’t know. Anyway it got the job done. And even though you might think that it is dead by now, I am sure it will take many year before it goes out of circulation.

I like the old battle scared Taxis. By now Ethiopia is having their own car production. So it is only a question of time before there relics will disappear. Good for most people. I for one am going to miss them.

 

Ethiopia – The country of myth and dreams of Grandeur.

Ethiopia is a fascinating country. Very beautiful and half of the country is situated on a plateau making it close to heaven. The culture is very different from the rest of Africa. It ticks all the boxes for making it an interesting destination. It is not an easy country to travel in.  Depend of course of your comfort level. And for a cheap skate like me it is very hard to keep your cash in your pocket. But there is a lot to see, and Ethiopia has a lot of mouths to feed and you should be ready to pay for the privilege for visiting this incredible country.  Actually this is not a problem. The regrets are as always the things you do not do.

 

First the important stuff.

VISA:  You probably need.  Online;  https://www.ethiopiaevisa.com/

In reality you do not need to apply. You can easily get one when you arrive. But check it out before  arriving at the airport.

Ethiopia Airlines: https://www.ethiopianairlines.com/

This is important if you are planning to do a lot of flying. Ethiopia is a vast country. Getting from A to B takes a lot of valuable travel time. So flying is a nice option. If you arrive in Ethiopia with EA you will get a huge discount on internal flights. Sometimes like whopping 70 %

Ethiopia time. Don’t get me started. During my time there it made things a little difficult as I was on normal time and the Ethiopians were on local time. Ethiopians use a 12-hour clock, with one cycle of 1 to 12 from dawn to dusk, and the other cycle from dusk to dawn. It makes perfectly sense to adjust time to follow daylight and in that way follow a normal work cycle.

Ethiopian calendar. Well – Starts end of August and is 7-8 years back in comparison with our calendar. The Ethiopian year has 13 months.

Guidebooks are nice: LP or BRADT. Either is good. On the funny part getting a boat ride in Bahir Dar the tout insisted that he knew Bradt. The Bradt he knew was a man. This is funny – because Bradt is a woman (Hilary) and the guy who wrote the Ethiopia book name is Phillip.

Bring USD. ATM’s are available and sometimes working. There is a black market for USD, but I wouldn’t use it.

Haile Selassie (in office 1916–1974); Still today he is treated with respect all over Ethiopia. Asked older people will say that everything was better under his rule, even though he didn’t do much for the average Ethiopian. He ended his life under the DERG and his remains was found under the toilet at the imperial residence in Addis. So his life ended much different that he lived it.

What I find really interesting is why is Haile Selassie born as Ras Tafari, is considered a God 8000 km from where he ruled? All the way to Jamaica. 

Rastafarians regard Haile Selassie I as God because Marcus Garvey‘s prophecy – “Look to Africa where a black king shall be crowned, he shall be the Redeemer” – was swiftly followed by the ascension of Haile Selassie as Emperor of Ethiopia. (BBC).

Rastafarians regard ‘Ethiopia’ as their homeland and believe they will eventually return.

So it all comes down to timing, that Haile Selassie was regarded as “God for the black race”. He didn’t at all think of himself as a God.

ONE LOVE – Jaws